Coming into the offseason, Dallas Mavericks fans have had lots of questions. Fans have been disappointed since the summer after Dallas brought home the title in 2011. Mark Cuban and Donnie Nelson felt it was best to allow Tyson Chandler (Knicks) and J.J. Barea (Timberwolves) walk away in free agency. Cuban and Nelson kept talking about financial flexibility and leaving room for the summer of 2012 when Deron Williams and Dwight Howard would be available.
The summer of 2012 came and went and Howard wound up with the Los Angeles Lakers while Williams chose the Brooklyn Nets over his hometown Mavericks. After a disappointing season in which the Mavericks missed the playoffs for the first time in 12 years, there was much optimism about the Mavericks offseason plans this summer. Chris Paul and Howard were the premier ‘Big Fish’ free agents out there and Dallas was hoping to land one of them.
Once the Los Angeles Clippers landed head coach Doc Rivers from the Boston Celtics, Paul did as most assumed and decided to re-sign with the Clippers while the Howard sweepstakes concluded when he signed with the Houston Rockets. Despite Houston being the popular front-runner, Howard’s decision was anyone’s guess. He had narrowed it down to a handful of teams with the Mavericks being one but in the end he chose Houston over Dallas. Obviously there were other players available in free agency but these were the two that everyone was targeting.
Many people, myself included, wondered what Dallas would try and do next.
Andre Iguodala who reportedly was an hour away from becoming a Dallas Maverick, signed with the Golden State Warriors and Josh Smith went to the Detroit Pistons. These were two other players on the Mavericks watch list.
Two positions Dallas needed to address this offseason were point guard and center. Last year Dallas was terrible on the boards and a big man would help solidify that position. One of the big men on their radar was Andrew Bynum. Although Bynum has had some injury problems in the past, he was someone Dallas felt they could utilize down low with Dirk Nowtizki. Following careful medical consultation, the Mavs brass passed on Bynum, who then decided to sign a partially guaranteed two-year $24 million deal with the Cleveland Cavaliers.
With all the talk of who the Mavericks didn’t get and what they missed out on, one could be led to believe the Mavericks are in worse shape than before. However, let’s not jump to conclusions too quickly. When analyzing the offseason you must understand where the Mavericks were last season.
Dallas ranked 16th in the league in team rebounds last year but they were 29th in opponents rebounding. The Mavs were fifth best in assists (23.2/gm) while being middle-of-the-pack in steals (16th). These were areas they needed to improve and in order to do so they needed to upgrade at the aforementioned center and point guard positions.
Let’s grade the Mavericks offseason so far:
Draft – A
Dallas walked away from the draft with a really good point guard in Shane Larkin, a player ranked 9th on the Mavs’ draft board.
“Our pick-and-roll game this past year was not at the level we’re used to, so we wanted to get better in that area,” Carlisle said. “Shane’s one of the best in college basketball at doing that.
During the championship run in 2011, Jason Terry and Nowitzki mastered the two man game and were virtually unstoppable. The Larkin (ankle) addition will eventually benefit Dirk and hopefully free him up for some more open shots.
The Mavericks also drafted shooting guard Ricky Ledo out of Providence. Ledo (6-7; 195) never played a minute in college, but had he his talent was worthy of a late lottery to mid-first round selection. Coming off the bench, he can be a nice complimentary player to go along with some of the other shooting guards the Mavericks have. Expect both Larkin and Ledo to spend time with the Mavs’ D-League affiliate Texas Legends.
Free Agency – B
At first I was really disappointed with the Mavericks free agency approach. Once again it seemed as if they had all their eggs in one basket and when that didn’t pan out, they seemed lost again. That wasn’t the case at all. Instead Dallas had a back up plan. While many of us were trying to figure out what that plan was, Cuban and Nelson seemed to have it figured out.
Dallas scooped up the best pure point guard left on the market by signing Jose Calderon (4 years $29 million). Calderon has been on the Mavericks radar for a while and has been the topic of many trade discussions with Toronto over the past several seasons. Nearly acquiring the Spanish vet weeks before the trade deadline, Dallas simply waited to sign him outright. Last year for the Raptors and Detroit Pistons he averaged 11.3 points and 7.1 assists. Calderon along with possibly Devin Harris (toe) plus rookies Gal Mekel and Larkin, the Mavs should have a nice rotation at the point guard position.
Dallas also signed 27-year-old Monta Ellis (3 years $25 million), formerly with the Milwaukee Bucks. Last season, the shooting guard averaged 19.2 points and 6 assists per game. Ellis will take the place of the departed O.J. Mayo and gives Dallas another viable scoring option along with Nowitzki.
Along with Ellis, the Mavericks brought his former teammate Samuel Dalembert (2 years $7.5 million) to help plug up the middle of the lane. Dalembert has career averages of 8.0 points, 8.1 rebounds and 1.8 blocks. The defensive presence will be welcome sight for the Mavs who lacked a defensive anchor last season.
To help out with the center position, Dallas re-signed both Brandan Wright (2 years $10 million) and Bernard James. The fan favorite averaged just over eight points a game and four rebounds.
Dallas also addressed additional shooting by signing former North Carolina Tarheel Wayne Ellington to a two-year deal worth a little over $5 million.
Considering what all Dallas missed out on during free agency, they seem to be sitting pretty right now. Of course nobody knows what will happen during the season with injuries and/or trade possibilities but as a Mavericks fan, I like the position they have put themselves in for the upcoming season. Coach Carlisle has a group of guys that if they come together could be the surprise of the NBA season this year.
Greg Higgins is a contributor with Mavs Fanatic. Video courtesy of @itsKlayAllen
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